'Grease' Is the Word ... and a Synonym for That Word Is 'Awesome'

Fox's First Live Musical Production Is a Hit

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'Grease: Live.'
'Grease: Live.' Credit: Kevin Estrada/FOX

Fox's first foray into the live musical craze that's been sweeping the airwaves was an unqualified success, as the three-hour broadcast of "Grease: Live" put up some of the network's strongest ratings numbers this season.

According to Nielsen fast national data, "Grease: Live" averaged 12.2 million viewers and a 4.3 rating in Fox's target demo, which translates to around 5.45 million adults 18-to-49. That makes this exercise in exponential nostalgia Fox's twelfth-highest-rated prime time broadcast of the 2015-16 season, trailing only the season premiere of "The X-Files" (6.1), Games 1 and 5 of the World Series (4.6 and 5.1, respectively) and eight episodes of "Empire."

A dazzlingly ambitious production -- spanning 14 sets over Warner's 20-acre backlot and playing out in front of a live audience, the show was directed by Tony nominee Tommy Kail ("Hamilton") and "Dancing with the Stars" vet Alex Rudzinski -- "Grease" proved that Fox hadn't wandered into the TV musical genre half-cocked. It also took some of the wind out of the sails of the people who spearheaded the live musical revival, topping NBC's Dec. 3 broadcast of "The Wiz Live!" (11.5 million viewers, 3.4 adults 18-to-49 rating) and eclipsing the year-ago presentation of "Peter Pan Live!" (9.21 million viewers, 2.4 demo).

NBC still has bragging rights in the Broadway-to-TV space, as its first big adaptation, the December 2013 production of "The Sound of Music Live!" delivered a staggering 18.6 million viewers and a 4.6 in the dollar demo.

Ratings for "Grease: Live" grew as the night wore on. In the first half-hour, the show drew a 3.7 in the demo, before jumping to a 4.1 between 7:30 p.m. and 8 p.m. EST. By the time the cast and hundreds of extras were belting out "We Go Together," Fox was peaking with a 4.6 rating. Predictably, the broadcast drew far more Pink Ladies than T-Birds; per Nielsen, "Grease: Live" drew a 16 share among women 18-to-49 and scratched out a 9 share among males in the same age bracket.

While Fox's look back at the '50s through the lens of the '70s was faithful to the source material (the original Broadway musical preceded the 1978 theatrical starring John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John), the 2016 production was somewhat sanitized for broadcast TV. For example, the obvious lines in "Grease Lightning" were scrubbed clean, and the bastardized Italian slang "eh, fongool" was excised from the tail end of "Look at Me, I'm Sandra Dee."

According to media buyers, Fox commanded an average rate of around $315,000 for each 30-second commercial spot it sold.

The broadcast was sponsored by Coca-Cola, in a deal that included heavy brand and product integration throughout the night.

Along with Coke, some of the most visible "Grease: Live" sponsors were Apple, Verizon, Samsung Mobile, Subaru and Sprint. Movie studios were all over the broadcast; among the films promoted in the commercial breaks were Paramount Pictures' "Zoolander 2" and "Whiskey Tango Foxtrot;" Marvel's "Deadpool;" Sony Pictures' "Pride and Prejudice and Zombies;" Twentieth Century Fox's "Eddie the Eagle;" Warner Bros.' "How to Be Single"; and Disney's "Zootopia."

Fox also carved out some time for in-house promos for "The X-Files," "Lucifer," "American Idol," "New Girl" and its upcoming Tyler Perry musical event, "The Passion."

According to iSpot.tv analysis, "Grease: Live" generated some 253.8 million advertising impressions for its 49 brand partners.

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